The irony of Jamaica

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The concept of sustainable development has proven to be very difficult for various parts of the economy and the society in general over the centuries. In fact, we have a very mixed history and we should at least try to understand our own learned behaviours.

The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the Tainos (a.k.a. the Arawaks), and they were essentially hunters and gatherers, and only had occasional skirmishes with the Caribs, but otherwise they lived peaceful lives within communities. Cooperation was particularly important for survival and sustainability.

Then a man arrived who was totally lost in every way. His name was Christobal Colon (Christopher Columbus), and there commenced our own confusion. He was seeking a way to India to enhance and replace an overland trade route that was more expensive. His own local investors would not back his undertaking as they still thought the Earth was flat (a direct rebellion against the sage advice of jackass). This was all originally taking place in his native Genoa (Italy) where a few wealthy families dominated commerce and the Roman Catholic Church.

Therefore Christopher defected (migrated) to Spain for international financing. He convinced the King and Queen (Ferdinand and Isabella) to join him in this undertaking. It is possible that they took the risk knowing full well that they intended to expel the Jews from Spain in the very year of Columbus’s sailing, and could see a fair amount of cash flow from seized assets. (It is worthy of note that in the last two weeks, 7 members of Parliament of the UK Labour Party have left over the issue of anti-Semitism.)

Columbus lost his way and ended up in the Caribbean and instead of sailing onward, he and his sailors frolicked with the nubile Tainos spreading illnesses and STDs among the native people who had little or no resistance. So Christopher and Spain decided to enslave the Tainos and ship them to Hispaniola and other Caribbean islands as slaves (the first type of Windrush movement). There ended our community/communal sustainable existence.

Fast-forward to Penn and Venables and the cycle began again. The Spanish Dons fled from the onslaught, and the British reigned; free to develop the Triangular Trade that based its economic velocity on slavery.

Slavery provided no communal and economic basis for the local accumulation and retention of profits. These profits were shipped to England and built the financial basis for the Industrial Revolution that completely escaped us. It has become clear that the successful areas of trade financing and banking, logistics, shipping, and insurance, were built on the finance flows from the West Indies to Britain. Banking surpassed planting by a long way.

Thus we became a low cost producer for a time through free labour, but did not even adopt the advantages of the steam engine. Soon enough a Commission (Norman Commission 1896) offered some comparisons between Jamaica and Barbados (who had adopted mechanization), and we were found wanting. Subsequently the Moyne Commission reviewed the situation. “The profitability of sugar planting in the West Indies 1650-1834” by J.R. Ward even mentions the condemnation of the labour intensive methodology by Adam Smith.

Abolition did not remove the learned tendencies of non-collaboration, and free villages became deteriorating places based on the inefficiency of small uneconomic landholdings. Limited self-governance and eventually Independence have done little to transform these tendencies and in many ways politicians have learned the art of exploiting ineffective education and rural poverty to their own benefit.

The laudable efforts around 1938 did not mature into a well-paid and productive labour force and thereby lost the real goals of higher pay and more productivity. In reflection, the movement was transformed into two major political parties who continue to fail in leading unity, collective ownership, and better training for the work force. Thus labour productivity has declined, and the objectives of the workers and management have not been met, and both sides cry out for redress from the very same failing and culpable parties.

So we find ourselves in a revolving time warp, a treadmill if you prefer, and the common features are exploitation and social/family disruption. Therefore we play ourselves into the corner and our competitors gain the advantage. The colonial master has been replaced by the local management who have adopted the modus operandi and brutality of the overseer; while the owners remit their profits and build developed economies, and a safer lifestyle abroad.

Like a repetitive play, enter the IDT stage left, chanting “we come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”. Immediately the battle lines are drawn and this continues to disrupt the original amelioration intended and the IDT has now morphed into a court. A court has little option but to follow the letter of the law in a rather inflexible way and the resultant attitudes do little to amicably resolve inter-personal problems. They collectively lose the Biblical Wisdom of Solomon, and choose to actually cut the child in half in an effort to apply the law.

During the period from the 1970s until now, the general society has redefined its own morals; and stealing, wounding, shooting, killing, drugs, and scamming, are accepted ways of behaviour even if you are caught. So employers seek the safety of using contract employees and are able to treat them with scant regard. This example is emulated by even the rank and file permanent clerical workers, who regularly force them to become lunch transporters, errand boys and girls, banking facilitators, and child pick-up chauffeurs.

Management makes the serious mistake of excluding them from the permanent workforce who enjoy other benefits. They therefore re-establish the house slave and the field slave concept as a skillful discrimination to intensify the divide, and conquer any tendency towards uprising. The outcome: the permanent workers do less work, and the only person who can help the customers with information is the contract security guard.

This is the battlefield faced by the IDT. A ruthless and uncaring management master class just lower than the ownership class, squared off against a workforce that have lost their moral compass. It is an untenable situation. The current updated law does not fulfill the mandate of non-acrimonious separation in a satisfactory way.

Trust is therefore undermined and leads to increased intransigence on both sides. It is a process whose objectives must be revised and new regulations put in place for better defined outcomes. It frightens local and foreign employers, and deprives local persons of meaningful jobs. It is a clear and present danger to cooperative/communal sustainability in a world that still favours t

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